In Wired for Story, Lisa Cron uses neuroscience to explain the principles of writing good stories, giving a very interesting take on why good stories work the way that they do. She reminded me of the book Made to Stick, as her 12 principles cover the key message of Chip & Dan Heath’s book which is to use simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories as the basis of effective communication (SUCCESs) and also The Storytelling Animal which shares many of the same secrets. I have reduced her 12 principles to eight which I think are key to effective story writing. Read more »
Over seven (and more) coming articles we will explore the basic plots outlined in Christopher Booker’s classic book. The first of these is “Overcoming the monster”.
Dragons and ogres
Every culture has it’s stories of overcoming the monster, such as the English myth of George and the Dragon (perhaps the dragon is usually more fearsome than the one in the picture above). In The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker discusses many examples of this plot including the original story of all which is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Overcoming the monster is the basic plot for Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk and other childhood fairy tales, Greek legends such as many episodes from Homer’s poems and of course Perseus and Theseus, as well as Beowulf (based on an old English poem), Dracula and The War of the Worlds as well as the films High Noon, Jurassic Park, The Magnificent Seven and The Three Musketeers (to name a few). Read more »
“God created man in order to tell stories.” – Hasidic saying, quoted by Franz Kafka
Where did stories start?
In The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker charts the history of stories and where he believes that they have gone wrong in the last 200 years, after outlining seven archetypal plots in detail with a rich array of examples. It’s a long and fantastic read, despite some flaws, which will enrich anyone interested in stories in any form (for example, there are many movie examples). Read more »
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” - John Donne
“The story – from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” - Ursula K. Le Guin
An obscure laboratory experiment in 1958, set the scene for a new awakening in consciousness for mankind. Harry Harlow showed that infant monkeys preferred to nestle up to a soft cloth surrogate mother model, rather than a wire mesh lactating mode. Certainly man cannot live by milk alone, he concluded.